Last Thursday, May 24, the South Bay Craft Coalition, a group comprising of members of National City’s local government, members of the National City Chamber of Commerce, and various local business people held a half-day conference at Telefonica Gastro Park in Tijuana. The event was to inform a group of invited brewery owners and brewers from Tijuana, Ensenada, and Mexicali of the potential opportunities that now exist for establishing breweries and tasting rooms in National City. There is a desire to attract wine makers, too.
These new opportunities were primarily created by the National City Council’s unanimous vote on December 19, 2017 to amend its municipal code to allow breweries and tasting rooms to open in mixed-used commercial zones and also streamline the process of permitting. Critically, the council nixed the requirement of a conditional use permit, usually required by many cities with often thousands of dollars in costs, a burdensome expense on what is often a small business startup, and with no guarantee of approval. This streamlining has already borne fruits, with Embarcadero Brewing Company having established a brewery location on 26th Street, while Chula Vista’s Novo Brazil Brewing Co are working on a tasting room in National City.
Attendees were given presentations from various legal, real estate, banking, and other specialists focusing on primary areas of permitting, financing, incentives, tax credits, site selection, and immigration and visa requirements. In her presentation, Megan Gamwell, National City’s Economic Development Specialist also noted that the population of National City is 57.3% Hispanic with a median age of 31, the youngest in San Diego County.
While National City’s streamlined permitting process no doubt trumps the arcane nature of similar Mexican bureaucracy, the costs of both capital and labor are obviously significantly increased on the US side of the border, and may prove to be too much of a detriment to relocation even if the desire to open a brewery in National City or elsewhere in San Diego County exists. That said, one of the conference attendees, Omar Celis, who along with twin brother Alan owns and operates Double C Brewery in Ensenada, seemed enthused at the prospect. In 2017, the Celis twins explored the opportunities of opening a satellite brewery with a pilot brewing system and tasting room in Chula Vista, but balked at the $11,000 estimated cost of conditional permitting with, again, no guarantee of approval. This time around they have higher hopes.